Chinese citizens are outraged at the scenes from the ongoing World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
Not because footballing giants at the tournament have been falling to unheralded teams.
But because large crowds of tens of thousands of people are gathering without masks to watch football -- for fun -- while people in China have been putting their lives on hold and living with perpetual lockdowns.
AFP reported that images of maskless fans have been circulating on Chinese social media site Weibo, which sparked outrage and debate.
People in China still dealing with Covid-19
Chinese citizens have been subjected to the country's harsh zero-Covid policy for many months now, with the government locking down entire cities and neighbourhoods in the name of stemming the spread of infections.
Such sudden lockdowns have caused panic, as those who find themselves in locations where lockdowns were suddenly introduced are subjected to Covid-19 testing and have to prove their negative infection status before being allowed to leave.
The process can take hours.
This potentially causes major disruptions to people's daily schedule and lives.
Moreover, the zero-Covid strategy has paid dubious dividends.
On Wednesday, Nov. 23, daily cases in China hit a high of 29,157, which is low compared to other countries, but nearing a domestic record.
The insistence that the zero-Covid policy continues until cases are eventually eradicated has already alienated those inside China from the rest of the world, where mask and travel restrictions have largely eased.
One way to let off some steam, it appears, is to take their frustrations online.
To add insult to injury, the 2022 World Cup is accessible for viewing by Chinese citizens, who are getting a glimpse of what the rest of the world have been up to -- in the wake of living with endemic Covid-19.
On "another planet"
Chinese social media users infuriated with the lockdown situation at home have complained that their "lives" and "youth" were being taken away.
Others lamented at being locked at home or on campus, unable to celebrate jubilantly like the rest of the world.
“The World Cup has allowed most Chinese people to see the real situation abroad, and worry about the economy of the motherland, and their own youth,” one user wrote in a message translated from Chinese.
An open letter, which circulated on Chinese messaging app WeChat before it was taken down, questioned if China was "on the same planet" as Qatar and the rest of the world.
BBC reported that Chinese state media have been paying a lot of attention to the World Cup, with some local establishments broadcasting the games for the public to watch.
However, the establishments are shown to be sparsely populated, owing to the numerous lockdown restrictions in the country.
The stark contrast between the packed Qatari stadiums and the empty Chinese streets has heightened the sentiment of alienation within China.
Some have expressed feeling "strange" seeing people raucously shouting without masks and without social distancing.
No season for celebration
Although the Chinese are passionate about football, with president Xi Jinping previously publicly announcing his love for football, the 2022 World Cup is still not time for the Chinese to celebrate.
On top of China's men's national team not qualifying for the event, Japan's historic 2-1 victory over Germany has compounded feelings of desolation amongst the Chinese community.
On Weibo, one user posted a video saying, "We are neighbours, we have the same type of physical built, but why can't we achieve what Japan can? Can the Chinese team please show some humility and learn from them!"